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Dazed & Confused No More: Jefferson Hack on giving voice to the collective zeitgeist

The early 1990s in Britain is a pertinent sliver in the history of European cultural consciousness. It marks a shift in both discourse and technology that began to extend itself beyond the bondage of post-colonial propaganda, particularly with the rise of a new wave of independent creatives in varying disciplines and thought. Jefferson Hack is a titan of this movement, having co-created the Dazed & Confused Magazine in 1991, which was at first a humble “zine” comprised of underground music, art, film, literature, and fashion.

Dazed & Confused No More: Jefferson Hack on giving voice to the collective zeitgeist
Portrait of Jefferson Hack by Sarah Piantadosi

Since then, Dazed & Confused Magazine expanded its operations and grew into Dazed Media — a parent company of a number of magazines, a cultural consultancy agency, and one of the most formidable shapers and narrators of subculture. Hack’s career is both representative and rooted in showcasing the ever changing nature of youth culture;, particularly independent thought that is aligned with racial equality, LGBTQ+ advocacy, and the pursuit of original creativity.

Perhaps most intriguing about Hack’s approach to publishing is his simplistic deduction of varying roles into one sentiment — he is first and foremost a storyteller. In an age where content, output, and influencers seem to have seized our relationship to both writing and visuals, Hack remains steadfast that the duty of the storyteller is to pass down, through multiple mediums, the collective zeitgeist.

In a rare interview with Paper Magazine, Hack muses the following;

“I banned the word ‘content’ in our offices. We don't make content — we make stories… A story, by the very nature of that word, implies... that there is an arc, and some sense of drama and enlightenment and some journey and some reward or question that you're going to be left with. When I was 12 or 13 and I picked up my first copy of Interview magazine … and I started reading incredible writers and journalists like Tom Wolfe and Ingrid Sischy, I was transported into this world of fashion and lifestyle and music, all through the pages of magazines. And those magazines were teleportation vehicles; they were able to transport me into downtown New York, into the culture, into the music, into the artistic milieu, into the bohemian lifestyle — all things I didn't have access to.”

The last line is perhaps most telling of Hack’s position regarding independent publishing — accessibility is the nexus upon which social marginalization and independent rebellion intersect in the pursuit for cultural liberation. What Dazed continues to showcase is the myriad of intense creative ingenuity with which human beings carve out their place on the planet, and this is in stark contrast to the calculated weaponry of mainstream media to promote societal ideology.

Dazed & Confused No More: Jefferson Hack on giving voice to the collective zeitgeist
Image by Benefiel, Rebecca R. via "Dialogues of Ancient Graffiti in the House of Maius Castricius in Pompeii."

The notion of independence in publishing is such that there is a clear boundary — even distinction — between the governing state’s influence and the “Vox populi,” a Latin phrase which translates to “voice of the people.” In Ancient Rome, graffiti was an integral part of the communication between the masses and the senate; and, as civilizations rise and fall, the constant flux between humanity and ideas of societal liberation continues to ebb and flow. This is compounded by the advent of the printing and recording of our cultural evolution throughout history. In the case of Jefferson Hack and the Dazed legacy, there is a delicate dance constantly held between generating profitability, yet remaining true to the quasi-anarchist ideals that first established the publication.

One cannot begin to quantify the formula behind the growth and influence of Dazed Media. It is widely respected as one of the few remaining print publications that, while questions the establishment, somehow continues to focus on what is most crucial — the community. Dazed hosts a global community of creative minds; having recently established Dazed China, offering the world a glimpse into the burgeoning youth of an otherwise isolated region. This is an incredibly interesting feat, one that seemingly calls into question the very divisive paradigms perpetuated by constructs such as borders and countries. This is the power of independent publishing — to touch the hearts and lives of people throughout the world with common objectives through the honoring of subjective identity expression.

It appears that what is preserved in Dazed Media’s DNA is really the art of the story; the ability for its global teams to keep abreast of the most pressing arisings, thus transforming them into lyrical and visual masterpieces. In an age where technological advancements begin to surpass our need for the tangible copies of print, Dazed offers both a continuous stream of information online, and a collector’s hardcopy. Our collective love for the tangible preservation of memory, images, and thought remain.

AnOther Man is an extension of the Dazed Media platform; it is a publication for the 21st century Renaissance man, and in a piece written by Jefferson Hack titled “For the Love of Print,” he provides insight from the perspective of printing;

“The landscape or double-page spread is a key format in magazine layout. The physical turning of the page also naturally gives pace to the flow. In magazine pages, the eye is traveling first class; on Instagram, the eye is in virtual free fall. While exhilarating, we simply don’t experience images in the same way, with the same nuance and depth, like holding a magazine and flicking through the pages at high-speed, trying to take it all in at once.

Dazed & Confused No More: Jefferson Hack on giving voice to the collective zeitgeist

Fashion and art photography, portraiture, long-form journalism and social reportage may look amazing on specially designed screen-based browsers, but they are best in the context of a bound and printed magazine or book. This is collectable, a physical memory, a reference that endures. The best magazines live on coffee tables and are statements of identity when you come into someone’s home; they are held by fans walking down the street, the magazine or its tote bag, symbols of identity and belonging. This is the enduring power of physical magazines as symbolic social signifiers.”

Exploration through the tangible written word can certainly be surmised by the age old adage penned by British politician, poet, critic, and prolific novelist Edward Bulwer-Lytton (1803 —1873): “The pen is mightier than the sword.”

We are distinguished from the animal kingdom not by our ability to communicate, but by our ability to record such communication; deciphering, translating, and orating through the intricate lineages of our species since our evolutionary inception as homo sapiens. Far greater than our feats of combat and war are our efforts towards expansive transmissions; so much so that our languages have reached the space beyond our atmosphere — the words of humans now orbit in the greater galaxy. It is with that one can determine the importance of Jefferson Hack’s presence as an icon of publishing; it marks a more subtle power and influence than many politicized roles might wish to command.

The fact that Jefferson Hack continues to publish his writing, consolidated on his website, is indicative of the integrity with which a writer worth their pen continues to hone their craft. It is a most precious ability — to weave words into form, and it is with print that such words truly come alive.

Note* Images sourced from Wiki Commons | Roman Graffitti from the American Journal of Archaeology 114.1 (2010)- 59-101. Web. 3 Nov. 2015.


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